In an interview with Jake Tapper on CNN, HHS Secretary Alex Azar said people in America had the freedom to not follow social distancing guidelines. Azar said it is ‘part of the freedom we have’ when speaking about people gathering in bars, ignoring social distancing.
In the CNN interview with Jake Tapper, Azar said that individual instances of people ignoring social distancing and acting irresponsibly is part of the freedom Americans have.
"In any individual instance you're going to see people doing things that are irresponsible, that's part of the freedom we have here in America." HHS Secretary Alex Azar reacts to some Americans not following federal guidance to wear a mask and social distance #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/JtHU1SkPg9
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) May 17, 2020
The comment comes after many parts of the country are opening back up. The Wisconsin Supreme Court overturned the governor’s order to extend stay-at-home restrictions. This decision prompted bars to open the very same night.
In other states like New York and California, lockdown restrictions remain more restrictive than others in the country. The calls for reopening the country are becoming increasingly divisive. Not all Americans are on board with the idea of a full-scale reopening, something the president is in favour.
Azar Says Federal Authorities Can Only Give Guidance on Social Distancing
During the interview, Azar said the federal government can only provide guidance on matters like social distancing. Ultimately, the implementation of these guidelines falls on state and local authorities. Earlier during the pandemic crisis, the White House issued several coronavirus guidelines.
This is not the only issue Azar spoke about in the interview. When asked about the question of reopening the country, Azar’s answer echoed that of the president. The HHS secretary said opening the country is important. The alternative, staying under lockdown, could cause greater health consequences.
States Fear Crowds After Reopening
During the CNN interview, Azar handed the responsibility of implementing social distancing protocol to the state and local authorities. This is not exactly new from the administration. Generally, this administration has tried to pass the buck to state and local governments during the crisis.
Meanwhile, Ohio governor Mike DeWine is also concerned about crowding in bars and restaurants if restrictions are lifted.
While Azar may have spoken about freedom when addressing violations of social distancing, state governors may not have the same luxury. If cases do spiral back up again after reopening, states may have to shut down again triggering a vicious cycle of reopening and closing to develop.
(Image Credits – NIH Image Gallery)